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The shastri and the air-pump: Experimental fictions and fictions of experiment for Hindi readers in colonial north India.

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In the early twentieth century, the vernacular science periodical emerged as a key medium for building science-literate publics in colonial South Asia. This article argues that the Hindi science monthly Vigyan became a discursive laboratory for experiments with language, literary genres, narrative plots, and settings to create culturally grounded science lessons for Hindi readers in the mid-1910s. I focus on the writings of Prem Vallabh Joshi, a pandit, science graduate, and small town teacher, who experimented with distinct literary genres to create a sensibility for science - an experimental temper - amongst Vigyan's readers. Through his strategic use of scientific experiments in the "history of" a particular branch of knowledge, detective mysteries, and the genre of the fictionalized dialogue, Joshi inducted colonial readers into experimental culture and global scientific modernity. As a reflexive participant in the ongoing confrontation between "Western" science and Hindu śāstra in colonial society, Joshi staged a fictional encounter between the experimental demonstration of the iconic air-pump and the textual authority of śāstra. This article examines the encounter between sastric commitments and scientific sensibilities and their conjoined mobilization in Vigyan in the era of linguistic nationalism. In this colonial vernacular publishing culture, the serial possibilities of the periodical and the history of science itself became critical resources in the ontological confrontations between experimental science and traditional authority.



Hindi, Science periodical, authority, discursive laboratory, experiment, experimental temper, genre, history of science, scientific publics, śāstra, Group Processes, Humans, Knowledge, Language, Linguistics, Publishing

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Hist Sci

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SAGE Publications